Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"Fable and Faith" - Robert Moses' Kin

Novellus Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
San Francisco, CA
February 19, 2011

Collaborative dance is hard to do well.  There must be a unifying concept and performative elements that work together in pursuit of the common goal - certainly not an easy undertaking.  "Fable and Faith", Robert Moses' most recent project, has conquered the conceptual part of the equation but has missed the cohesiveness.  This evening length production at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts brought two works ("The Cinderella Principle (2010) and the premiere of "Fable & Faith") that combined storytelling, music and dance.  Moses' concept was intriguing; the dancers technique and execution of the movement stunning; Anne Galjour's textual presence compelling; and the San Francisco Boys Chorus' musical contribution beyond measure.  But in order to fully realize any collaborative dance piece, these components must shift from individual parts to a collective whole.  It is the choreographic material that facilitates this transformation and unfortunately, in this case, the movement didn't live up to expectation.  

"The Cinderella Principle" examined the notion of family in today's society and more specifically, how we create that emotional human structure in our lives.  To that end, Moses explored multiple different situations (adoption, surrogacy, IVF, pregnancy) and the spectrum of emotions (uncertainty, desperation, expectedness, belonging, joy) that occur in pursuit of family.  The text, written and performed by Anne Galjour, painted a very realistic picture of this complicated entity (the family), while the movement struggled to embody this narrative foundation.  There was plenty of dance in the piece, but not much of it spoke to the concept with one important choreographic exception.  A recurring walking motif found the dancers moving very deliberately, lifting their foot in the back as they took each step, almost a slowed down interpretation of how a horse moves.  This sequence was prominent through much of "The Cinderella Principle" and the constant propulsion was evident - moving on; moving forward; moving towards happiness.  

The same observations hold true for the premiere of "Fable & Faith" - the movement was interesting, the dancing solid, the collaborators great, yet again, the connection between the story and the choreography was not there.  The disconnect was even more obvious in this piece than in "The Cinderella Principle".  "Fable & Faith" incorporated several children's tales into one epic adventure read by Galjour- definitely narrative.  Strangely, the movement seemed almost abstract and not purposely so.  It wasn't as if Moses was trying to make an artistic comment by juxtaposing abstraction against the narrative.  Costumes, props, text and music (although delightfully performed by the San Francisco Boys Chorus) just aren't enough and weren't enough.  In a narrative dance performance, the story has to live and breathe in the choreography; otherwise the work just doesn't add up.

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